The first point of contact is usually over the phone,This gives me the chance to build up a picture of both the horse and rider as a combination and start to get an idea which selection of saddles may be suitable to bring out on the saddle fit. Asking questions on the type,age,size and build of the horse, also the height and size of the rider will change this decision dramatically,obviously what discipline the saddle is required for. I also need to know the full address and postcode of the yard.
If you keep your horse at home do you have a suitable and safe place to ride on the saddles, if you are in a big Livery yard is it necessary to book the school so that we could saddle fit without lessons or too much interruption, the procedure could take approximately an hour and a half to two hours.
Saddle Fitting Explained
Why have a saddle professionally fitted?
What should I look for in a correctly fitted saddle? A saddle will probably be the most expensive single item which you will buy for your horse so it is really important that the choice you make is guided by someone who has extensive knowledge and experience in fitting saddles. The society of Master Saddlers saddle fitting qualification is the only professional saddle fitting qualification available worldwide and is recognized as demonstrating comprehensive knowledge and expertise in its holders. The qualification covers handling horses, back examination and recognition of gait malfunctions, lameness or un-level steps, recognition of asymmetric development, basic understanding of human anatomy, knowledge of individual disciplines, recognition of damage and defects in saddles and horse description and record keeping. Holders of the qualification are required to re-register annually and to undertake refresher training every two years.
The most important aspect of all however is fitting saddles to horses varying in breed, type, size and conformation. The horse's welfare is always the most important consideration together with the rider's needs in all the various disciplines and equestrian sports so that individual horse and rider combinations can achieve optimum comfort and performance.
There can be few horse owners who now fail to recognize that the saddle, and the way in which it fits, is fundamentally important to the welfare, comfort and success of both horse and rider. There is greater understanding that horses 'change shape' for a variety of reasons and so the saddle which provided an acceptable fit when it was purchased may require adjustment, alteration and even - in some cases - exchange at a later date. The size and width of the tree must be suited to the horse being fitted.
- The angle of the tree must correspond to the angle of the horses' shoulder
- The size of the saddle must be suitable for horse and rider
- The saddle must not interfere with the backward rotation of the horses' scapula
- The saddle must be balanced and the deepest part of the seat should encourage the rider to sit in the centre of the horses' movement
- The bearing surfaces of the saddle should be as large as possible and must make even contact with the horses back without creating any pressure points
- The saddle must remain centrally located at all paces and free from excessive movement such as swinging, swaying, rocking and rotating
- The tree must be entirely symmetrical
- The panel of the saddle must be completely symmetrical, although there will be occasions when the saddle fitter recommends adjusting the flocking of the saddle to correspond with irreversible one-sidedness as a result of past injuries or muscle imbalance
- The girth should lie within the girth groove and, when adjusted, not pull the saddle forward
Why does the saddle fitter need all the information about me and my horse?
The saddle fitter only has a limited amount of space on his or her van so needs as much accurate information about you as possible so that the most appropriate saddles are on the van in readiness for your appointment. He or she will need:
- Horse owners' name, address, day, evening and mobile telephone numbers
- Address where the horse is kept if different - equestrian yards can be notoriously difficult to locate! It is important to provide clear directions and a post code if possible as the saddle fitter may have to rely on satellite navigation to get to you!
- Horses' name, breeding/type, age, height
- Wither type
- Main discipline - the general purpose saddle is a clever compromise but it cannot assist performance in individual disciplines in the same way as saddles designed for a specific purpose
- Competition level - the saddle fitter is able to recommend and advise which saddle types and designs are best suited to the riders' physique and level of experience
- Fitness level - saddle fitters prefer to fit a saddle when the horse is fit for the type of work it is required to undertake but circumstances often mean fitting the horse immediately. If that is the case then the rider must realise that the saddle is likely to require substantial adjustments as the horses' fitness improves and his shape changes
- The riders' height, weight and age range - and if there are more than one riders for the horse!
What facilities will the saddle fitter need?
- A flat, hard surface where the horse can be examined and run up in hand
- An arena, school or area where the horse can be safely ridden, and in the winter months it is essential that this is well lit.
- Show jumps or cross country fences if the saddle is to be used solely for jumping
- Stirrup leathers, irons and a girth
- The horse - presented in a well groomed condition
- Any numnah or pad which you propose using
- You - make certain the rider who will be using the saddle is present at the fitting
What will the saddle fitter do?
- With the horse held in a halter and standing square, he will check the back for white hairs, lumps and sores, condition and conformation features and back sensitivity
- The horse will then be seen in hand for action and for any conformation problems likely to affect the fit of the saddle
- The saddle fitter will then take a template of the horses' back with the aid of a flexi-curve
He or she will then select and fit appropriate saddles ensuring that they conform to the shape of the horse
- The horse should then be ridden in the chosen saddle on both reins and diagonals in walk, trot and canter and if necessary over some small jumps
Further information about saddle fitting can be foundon the Society
of Master Saddlers website www.mastersaddlers.co.uk or in their brochure - 'Essential Guide to Saddles and Saddle Fitting' and their video 'Saddle Fitting Explained'.